What would life be like if British society had taken a different path in the mid-nineteenth century? What if science was seen as having all the answers, subjects like phrenology continued to be taken seriously, and other branches of knowledge were outlawed completely? A number of things might have gone off the rails: asking questions about meaning or belief in a deity could have been seen as so shameful they were made illegal, perhaps women would have been denied any kind of education, and people of other races might have been treated with even more suspicion than they were already.
The mist wisped its way over the sea towards the shore, curling over the beach and on to the promenade. A deepening haze softened the contours of the beach huts and the cliffs behind. I walked more slowly, feeling my way ahead. The air was unusually still. Scanning the beach I glimpsed a shape there. It seemed to be blue and white; an abandoned deckchair perhaps? Coming closer I could see it was a figure stretched out in the sand. Probably one of those giant puppets from yesterday’s carnival. Then I heard a faint moan. I approached cautiously. As I drew closer I could see wide canvas trousers and a short jacket with brass buttons. A scene from my childhood floated past me. It was a wet day and I was asking when it would be dry enough to play outside. ‘Is there enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers?’ my mother asked, looking up at the sky. So perhaps this figure was a sailor? He seemed rather small. There was seaweed hanging from his body. Had he nearly drowned and been washed ashore? I hesitated, being somewhat squeamish and also aware that I was on my way to a rehearsal. Continue reading →
“Come in.” He looked at me over the top of his glasses as I entered the office. “And who have we here.”
“I was looking for Dr. Purcell,” I said. “I’m George, her new PhD student.”
“Ah.” The man put down his pen and folded his arms on the desk. “Trish has just popped out for vital caffeine supplies. She won’t be long. Make yourself comfortable.”
I took the only chair that wasn’t covered in paper. The room was small and stuffy. One of the two desks – the one my companion was sitting behind – was covered in files and pens and folders. The other, presumably belonging to my new supervisor, was empty apart from a laptop and fountain pen. I glanced at the man. He was the epitome of a mad professor, all wild hair and half-moon glasses, but there had been no name on the door other than Dr. T. Purcell. Continue reading →